Stories that move us are hard to leave behind. We dream about them. Some people put themselves in the roles of the characters in vivid daydreams. Any great story allows the reader/viewer to relate to a character, or experience something outside their own world. When a story is successful, some resurrect that amazing feeling with fanfiction.
Fan fiction is a broad term for the work of fans using favorite characters from another’s work. It is any story using pieces from another’s original work, usually without the author’s express permission, though not always. More on that later.
For some, fan fiction is a way of celebrating and becoming a part of a fictional world they enjoy. It’s a chance to interact in a way much more direct and intensely personal than that of a mere observer. There are numerous other reasons one chooses to write fanfiction. Some treat it much as a role playing game. For other’s, it’s an exploration of personal issues from a distance. The issues become someone else’s and are therefore easier to examine. For some, it is even a springboard into writing original fiction.
Writing is not an easy endeavor. Through fanfiction, one can explore the art with the vital pieces already in place. In the fan fiction community, stories are sometimes critiqued as thoroughly, and harshly, as any original work. Sites like fanfiction.net and Fanfictioworld.net allow writer’s to publish their work and reader’s to comment. Other, smaller forums cater to individual tastes in fan fiction, as do some Yahoo groups. Not only are the traditional story elements assessed, but also canon, which is the actual storyline and setting of a work of fiction. Fanon is the way fans wish it were. This is expressed by such frequent writings that fans come to believe it happened that way.
The main three story elements are the same for fan fiction as for original work.
This is the one element not lightly trifled within fanfiction. As in any work, characterization is key in creating and holding interest. It is the crux of a great story. Any deviation must be defended. The smallest elements are hotly debated.
Setting is changed on occasion, sometimes with great success. It is a much more flexible element than characterization.
This is the crux of fanfiction. It’s a place where writer’s can engage in a little “Mary Sue” behavior, or writing themselves into the story. This is often frowned upon, while original characters engaging in new adventures is standard. It allows the exploration of characters that may have received little attention in the original story. For example, “…Lt. Uhura, the African-American woman who received little attention on the original Star Trek, is lavished with fan attention” (chillingeffects.org/fanfic).
Fan fiction writing is not without consequences. Most fanfiction authors craft despite the fact that the original work is copywrited. The owner of the copyright has not give permission for the work to be used in any way. Authors are also trifling with trademark infringement. Using terms exclusive to a work is generally forbidden. Chillingeffects.org details the issues connected with fan fiction and what recourse an author can take should they receive a cease and desist letter, a real possibility.
But not all fanfiction is a legal violation. Some is accepted by the owner of the original works. Jim Butcher, of Dresden and Codex Alera series fame, once forbade the use of his work. He has since changed that stance, though with caveats, found here http://www.jim-butcher.com/news/000354.php. One wonders if this is a result of his own work with a new Spiderman novel. Anne McCaffrey also allows fanfiction, but has more stringent rules, as detailed by a letter from McCaffrey, reposted on a fanfiction.net forum.
Legalities and critics aside, fanfiction has a huge community. Any story with a following has its own entourage of fanfiction writers. Whether this is for good or for ill is often debated, both in court rooms and on the Web.